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Building knowledge, resources to enrich the lives of older adults

Jan Mutchler, PhD
Director, Gerontology Institute, UMass Boston

For nearly four decades, the Gerontology Institute has been a leader in the field of population aging. Established by the Massachusetts legislature in 1984, the Institute was envisioned as a resource that would help legislators, state agencies, and the general public better understand the Commonwealth’s older adult population and plan for their increasing numbers. As summarized in this inaugural impact report, the Gerontology Institute successfully serves as an expert resource to the Commonwealth and to stakeholders across the nation, with contributions far beyond what its founders initially imagined.

Working hand-in-hand with the Gerontology Department, the Institute represents the research, service, and community engagement arm of the gerontology enterprise at UMass Boston. This year researchers produced innovative scholarship about aging populations and the aging experience, unraveling key aspects of the social determinants of health and documenting the contours of disparities in aging. Our faculty, fellows, and staff examined policy and practice pathways with the goal of improving environments for aging populations and strengthening equity in aging experiences. We continued building partnerships at the community, state, and national levels that ensure we ask timely questions that matter. And we developed translational knowledge that informs policymakers and other stakeholders on issues such as the quality of long-term services and supports, the critical elements of age-friendly communities, and what it actually costs to live independently in later life.

This past year we engaged more than ever with older adults, communities, and organizations in ways that enrich the lives of older people and strengthen the effectiveness of stakeholders. Signature programs—the Pension Action Center, which helps older adults recover pension benefits to which they are entitled; and the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, which develops and delivers innovative educational opportunities for older adults—adapted to online operations due to the pandemic and barely lost a beat doing work that benefits hundreds of older adults. All of our work is enriched by involving students at the undergraduate and graduate levels, while the students gain valuable experiences that contribute to their educational goals.

I was honored to take on the role of director of the Institute this past year, succeeding Len Fishman,  who served as the director for seven years. I am proud to share this report with you, offering snapshots of the range, scale, and impact of UMass Boston Gerontology. I welcome any ideas you may have for building on our momentum.

Jan Mutchler

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Celebrating a year of transitions
and accomplishments

Edward Alan Miller, PhD
Chair, Department of Gerontology, UMass Boston

The Department of Gerontology experienced a strong year in 2021-2022. Last fall, after eight years as director of the doctoral program, I assumed the role of department chair, replacing Jeffrey Burr, who stepped down after 10 impactful years as chair. We also welcomed Kathrin Boerner, a member of the department since 2014, as our new doctoral program director.


Diversity, equity, and inclusion is a priority for the department. We successfully fundraised for the Frank Caro Scholarship for Social Justice in Aging (donations and pledges total $575,000 to date) to fund scholarships for doctoral study. We developed a curriculum self-assessment tool and we are conducting climate surveys. We are implementing changes to the undergraduate program to further increase its attractiveness to diverse students across campus.

Our faculty, students, and alumni were remarkably productive this past year. Notable faculty accomplishments include MIT appointing Marc Cohen to a prestigious Mel King Community Fellowship and the University of Michigan accepting Jeff Stokes into a highly competitive data immersion program. Doctoral student Yan-Jhu Su was named a junior leader of the Academy for Gerontology in Higher Education. Among our alumni, Bei Wu, PhD ’00, was named vice dean for research at New York University’s College of Nursing; Kelly Fitzgerald, PhD ’08, was elected chair of the NGO Committee on Ageing-Geneva at the United Nations; and Danielle Waldron ’20, was named chair of the Emerging Scholars & Professional Organization for the Gerontological Society of America.

With the hooding of Meghan Hendrickson and Claire Wickersham this past spring, our PhD program now counts 103 graduates. Dr. Hendrickson took a position at Abt Associates working on federal contracts concerning nursing home quality. Dr. Wickersham, who received the McCormack Dean’s Outstanding Graduate Student Award, is applying for job opportunities in Washington, D.C. Kudos as well to the graduates of our undergraduate program, our Management of Aging Services master’s program, and our certificate programs.

I appreciate the invaluable contributions of program administrator Michele Campbell, who retired in the summer of 2022 after 30 years with the gerontology program. I also want to acknowledge the passing of Bing Chen, PhD, a retired faculty member and towering figure in aging.

2021-2022 was a year of transition and accomplishment. I look forward with excitement to this forthcoming year.

Edward Alan Miller

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